Even minor rear-end collisions can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical trauma. In larger accidents, obvious injuries present themselves such as lacerations, head injuries, and brain dysfunction. Smaller accidents cause injuries too, but they are harder to detect because the brain does not process those types of after car accident symptoms as quickly. Back strain, lower spine pain, and neck injuries can present themselves weeks or even months after an accident occurs. Back pain or neck pain after car accidents are very common whiplash car accident injuries.
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If you experience back strain, lower spine pain, or neck injuries months after a car accident, you should consult with a New York personal injury lawyer. A New York personal injury attorney can help work you through a medical diagnosis to determine whether you may have a legal claim for damages from a car accident. While soft-tissue injuries like back strain can come from many different sources, a New York car accident attorney can help you diagnose the cause of your injury and help you determine whether you can seek compensation in court.
What Is a Whiplash Injury?
One of the most commonly talked about but least understood forms of injury from a car accident is whiplash. Whiplash occurs while the body is moving but is suddenly forced to move in the opposite direction. When a vehicle crashes into another car and comes to a stop, everything in the car moves with it, but eventually either a seat belt, car door, or dashboard will stop that movement and shove it in the opposite direction. This swift back and forth movement is what causes whiplash in a car accident, and it can be seriously damaging to the neck and back. Simply put, the human spine was designed to bend, but it was never intended to handle those massive levels of stress.
Keep in mind that whiplash symptoms are often delayed. Even if you walk away from a car accident without any injuries, you should still go to the doctor to be examined for whiplash. This is especially true if you feel aching or pain start to occur sometime after the accident. As discussed above, whiplash injuries such as back strain, neck injuries, lower spine pain, or neck injuries might not manifest until weeks or even months after an accident. If you do begin to experience that type of pain, you should seek help from both a doctor and a NYC car accident attorney to help you evaluate your possible legal claims.
Common Symptoms of Whiplash from Rear End Collisions
There are many different types of whiplash-related pain, but some symptoms occur more commonly than others. If you experience any of these types of injuries after an accident, you should contact a New York car accident lawyer to discuss what you are feeling.
- Pain in the Neck or Shoulders: Neck and shoulder pain are common whiplash symptoms. It will most commonly manifest as either stiffness or a slight pain when you turn your neck to look around you. Neck injuries and shoulder pain can also indicate a spinal injury such as a herniated disk.
- Back Pain: Back strain and lower spine pain is another common whiplash-related injury. If you are suffering from back pain after a car accident, it could be a sprain, herniated disc, or other soft tissue injury such as muscle damage. If your back is tingling or numb, that could relate either to a pinched nerve or a more serious injury.
- Discogenic Back Pain: Spinal discs are round pieces of cartilage that act as a cushion between each spinal bone. They also allow the spine to twist and stabilize it against shocks. Disc injuries can be extremely painful and will become worse over time. In most cases, car accident injuries will manifest in the lower lumbar disc in the form of either lumbar sprains or spinal stenosis. A lumbar sprain occurs when the lower lumbar disc is stretched too far, such as when whiplash occurs. Spinal Stenosis occurs where the bone channel that houses the spinal cord narrows. A car accident can cause spinal stenosis if a ruptured disc puts pressure on the spinal canal.
- Facet Back Pain: Facet joints are a body’s structural support and make it easier for the vertebrae to move. In combination with spinal discs, facet joints allow the body to exercise a wide range of back and spine movement. Facet back pain symptoms include abnormal muscle spasms. These muscle spasms shock the spine and can throw it out of alignment. This can occur when bending or turning and can lock the spine in place.
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What if My Whiplash Symptoms Are Delayed?
As a general rule, it does not matter whether pain or a medical condition arises after a car accident for the purposes of seeking compensation from an insurance company. As long as you can prove that your injuries were caused by the crash, you can receive compensation. If an insurance company denies your claim, your attorney may be able to negotiate with insurers and strengthen your claim to recover.
That said, delayed symptoms of whiplash are very common but do present some problems. The biggest problem is failing to associate delayed injuries with the accident. Generally, if no other event could have caused the pain you are feeling, then your injuries are likely accident related. However, it can be harder to prove injuries that are distanced from the accident by other injury events.
This is why it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible after your crash. Your doctor can help guide you through a recovery plan that will track the development of any new symptoms. If you did not see a doctor, your claim is not necessarily lost, but you should consult with a NYC car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
What to Do if You Feel Neck or Lower Back Pain After a Car Accident?
The very first thing you should do is see a doctor. Only a medical professional who has performed a full check-up and evaluation can determine what the extent of your injuries are. Your insurance company cannot tell you whether you have been injured. Your lawyer cannot tell you whether you have been injured. You need to seek medical help to know for sure. If you have been to a doctor and receive a clean bill of health, you should consider getting a second opinion if you still feel pain, and stay alert for any additional symptoms that develop after your accident.
Next, you should begin collecting evidence of the car accident. Generally, three types of evidence are most persuasive to both insurance companies attempting to settle a claim and juries deciding a case. First, police reports generally represent an impartial third-party view of what happened in an accident. The best way to prove you were not at fault is to present a police report indicating as such. Second, you will want to identify any witnesses to the accident and collect their contact information.
Witnesses can help you corroborate your side of the story and may see things about the crash that you missed. Third, you will want to take photographs of the scene of the accident. Photos of the accident itself are the most helpful as they can show how the cars collided and how much damage occurred. Take pictures of your vehicle, skid marks, the other person’s vehicle, traffic signals as well as the general area where the accident happened.
You should also document any pain you experience after a car accident. Obtain any records related to your injuries including medical records and healthcare bills. If your doctor is slow in sending you those items, be persistent, especially if your doctor’s office is small. Doctors are busy people, but you do have a legal right to your medical records. You should also note that many larger medical centers like hospitals have specific records releasing procedures that you need to follow.
If a doctor’s office or hospital has not been responding to your medical records requests, you should alert your attorney so that he or she can request them on your behalf. When you receive your medical records, make sure that the records discuss how the injury was caused. If the records do not say directly that your injury was caused by the negligence of the other driver, your attorney may be able to help you get a letter from the doctor clarifying that issue.
Finally, you should contact an experienced New York City car accident attorney. Most auto accident lawyers offer free consultation sessions, which are helpful to determine whether you may have a claim for recovery in court. An attorney can also help recommend additional doctors for you to visit and can assist in filing a claim with your insurance company.
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Discussing Your Accident with Insurance Companies
You should avoid talking with an insurance adjuster until after you consult with an attorney. The most common insurance company tactic is to request that the injured party sign a release of all future liability in exchange for a minor settlement (usually repairs to your vehicle). Signing this form before you have evaluated whether you have a legal case at all can result in missing an opportunity to be compensated for your injuries.
Waiving your right to future claims also prevents you from recovering compensation for any future injuries that may be laying dormant. Before you sign any release, you should consult with a car accident lawyer in NYC.
The best rule of thumb to follow is that you should not make any hasty legal decisions including signing an insurance waiver until you have reached “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). MMI refers to the point at which your post-accident recovery has run its course and you are as healthy as you are ever going to be.
You should contact an attorney before you reach MMI to begin gathering evidence for a future lawsuit, but you should avoid actually filing until you can determine what the true extent of your injuries are. Your doctor can help advise you on when you will reach MMI.
A Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Injuries
In New York, the statute of limitations sets a deadline that determines how long you have to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations for all personal injury lawsuits, including car accidents, is three years. In other words, any automobile-related accident claims must be filed within three years of the date of the crash.
It is not possible to file any lawsuit after the statute of limitations expires. As a result, you should consult with a New York car accident attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your legal options are preserved and that you do not accidentally miss the deadline.
What Is the Average Compensation for a Back Injury After a Car Accident?
Back injuries come in many forms and some are more severe than others. As a result, it is impossible to quote an exact number without going through a consultation first. That said, there are a few factors that can affect the range of possible compensation. Three types of damages can be claimed in almost every car accident case, and two other types of damages are worth mentioning:
- Medical bills: The amount of your medical bills can be claimed as compensable damages in an auto accident case. This number can include any costs of surgery or ER visits, ambulance rides, and recovery services such as chiropractic care or physical therapy. The medical bills category can also include an estimation of any future medical bills for continuing care.
- Lost income and wages: Like medical bills, lost wages can be claimed as compensatory damages. If you had to miss work due to your recovery or otherwise affected your ability to perform your job, any reduction in wages earned presently or in the future can be recovered.
- Pain and suffering damages: It is almost impossible to place a dollar amount on an accident victim’s pain and suffering. Many try to distill pain and suffering to a specific number, but most accountings are arbitrary. That said, these damages are compensable. Some insurance companies simply use a multiplier formula of your actual medical bills and lost wages to calculate pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress: Emotional distress damages are not awarded as commonly as pain and suffering damages because the two are very similar. In certain cases, however, additional emotional damages can be awarded where the accident caused severe emotional trauma like PTSD.
- Loss of Consortium: Loss of consortium claims refer to compensation for a victim’s loved ones due to being deprived of a meaningful relationship or companionship with the victim. These damages most commonly occur in the most serious of car accident cases like wrongful death lawsuits or cases of paralysis.
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One Example of Auto Accident Compensation
As explained above, it is very difficult to place exact numbers on compensation without knowing the full picture. Attorneys generally analogize accident cases to prior lawsuits and compensation awards. This is an example of a fairly typical car accident case. As you read, try to guess a compensation number (keep in mind that this incident occurred in 2006, and some medical procedures cost more today than a decade ago). In the end, you may be surprised.
A forty-year old woman was driving home from work along a small road in rural upstate New York when she was struck in the rear by another vehicle. The other vehicle was only traveling about 25 miles per hour. The victim’s head struck the headrest of her seat and she passed out briefly. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital. When the doctors treated her, she complained of back and neck pain. In response to those complaints, the doctors examined her and performed an x-ray.
The doctors advised her she could return home that evening. Several days later, she followed up with the doctor, who told her that she had a herniated disc at L4-5. She was advised to rest in bed and stay home from work. While on bed rest, the victim was also not allowed to attend to her chores at home such as cooking and was unable to continue singing in her church choir. After about two and a half months of physical therapy and chiropractic treatment, she was allowed to return to work.
What would you award this victim in damages? It may surprise you to learn that she received $50,000.00 in compensation, and the appellate court sustained that award after finding that it did not deviate from the laws regarding reasonable compensation. This case represents one where all three main categories of damages (medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering) contributed to the victim’s recovery of damages. For those who would like to read more about this case, it is reported at Chery v. Souffrant, 71 A.D.3d 715 (N.Y. 2010).
Have you recently been in a car accident? Are you experiencing back or neck pain that you can attribute to your car accident. The Personal injury lawyers NYC of the Law Office of Yuriy Moshes can help you seek compensation for your injuries in a court of law. Our law firm assists victims of car accidents in all five New York City boroughs (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx), northern New Jersey, Long Island, and upstate New York. Contact us for a free consultation regarding your injuries.